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"O ye'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road,

And I'll be in Scotland afore ye." - The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond


User research requires – you guessed it – users.

Whether we’re running an online study or an in-person one, we will need to get a certain number of representative users to volunteer their time to do our tree test.

In some cases, recruiting is easy. We put a study invitation on our high-traffic website, some fraction of visitors click it and do the test, and we're done.

In many cases, however, our job is more difficult. Perhaps we're looking for a certain subset of users. Perhaps we don’t have an existing website to draw traffic. Perhaps our audience is small enough that it’s hard to get enough users to volunteer.

In this chapter, we discuss how to decide which (and how many) participants we need, how to get their attention, and how to persuade them to do our study.


How many participants?

~50 per user group, depending on the # of questions per participant

Different user groups

Recruiting for separate tests vs. a single "everyone" test

Using web ads

Choosing sites/pages/position, creating the ad, and explanation pages

Using email lists

Inviting in batches, filtering lists, opting out, etc.

Using social media

Who to target, what to say

Using commercial panels

How panels work, quality of participants, and caveats

Using integrated recruitment tools

Similar to commercial panels, but easier to use

Other ways to recruit

Mechanical Turk, trade groups/forums, friends & family, etc.

Dealing with selection bias

What it is, what causes it, and how to reduce it

Coordinating audiences and channels

Recruiting different types of users using different media

Screening for specific participants

Filtering databases, using targeted email lists, and asking explicit questions

Restricting access with a password

Sending the invitation separately from the password

Writing a good invitation

4 tips and a template

Offering incentives

Usually necessary, and usually a prize draw

Recruiting for in-person sessions

Getting the right participant in the right room at the right time

 Key points

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